SEPTEMBER 11TH - WHAT ARE THE NON-VIOLENT ALTERNATIVES?

 

 

 

Preamble

It is not enough for us simply to criticise military retaliation for the September 11 outrage.

We must come up with a reasoned programme of action to put in its place.

The following brief notes are an attempt to begin a process of reasoned response to international terrorism - a mental map of non-violent solutions.

In the end, no non-violent path is going to provide action that can compete with bombing for prime time TV footage, but since bombing is making things worse, and non-violent action can lay the foundation for a secure future peace, this lack of TV charisma should not be seen as a defect in non-violence.

The paper does not claim to be complete; it is aimed to stimulate comment, additions and constructive criticism from other people from inside and outside the Green Party.

Index:

1 WHO IS THE ENEMY?
2 VIOLENT SOLUTIONS?
3 NONVIOLENT ACTION
3.1 Defensive action
3.1.1 Airlines
3.1.2 Nuclear Power stations
3.1.3 Benign energy production
3.2 Undercover action
3.3 Financial measures
3.4 Legal measures
3.5 International pressure on Governments that shelter terrorists.
3.6 Understand and address the root causes of terrorism
3.7 Religious aspects
3.8 Index of Governance

1 WHO IS THE ENEMY?

The USA has declared "War on Terrorism". Terrorism is "the systematic use
of terror especially as a means of coercion". Certainly the September 11
attacks come under that heading - but so also do a number of Western and USA
actions, (the My Lai massacre; the carpet bombing of Cambodia; the
slaughter of 30,000 Nicaraguans with the help of the Contras; the current underreported
bombing of Iraq, and the rest). Indeed, the threat of nuclear weapons could also be classed as the systematic use of terror as a means of coercion.

Although the horrific action on September 11th was a stark example of the purest terrorism, the word "terrorist" itself is an imprecise term.
One man's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter. We must not forget that the CIA and therefore the American Presidency was happy to sponsor Osama bin Laden when he was fighting the Russians.

Osama Bin Laden is the main suspect according to the USA, and it is a pity that they are slow in presenting their evidence to an international criminal court.

Bin Laden may or may not be responsible for the attack. It is in the nature of his network that there is no hierarchical chain of command, and it may or may not be the case that he originated or helped to develop the plan. It is going to be pretty difficult to prove that he was complicit in the crime, but America should at least put its indictments to a competent court of International Law. It is ironic that the USA has failed to support the proposed International Criminal Court which would have been the place to try OBL.

Even if Bin Laden could be killed or captured, his network, money, and ideology will
remain. Terrorism is like a Hydra, the mythological beast that grew five heads in the place of each head that was cut off.

The rule of international, not unilateral, law must be applied to present and future violations against humanity, and applied to all countries and peoples equally.


2 VIOLENT SOLUTIONS?


The physical war on terrorism is a self defeating attempt to treat the symptom, not the cause.

What can be learned from Waco? The problem then was an armed cult which the Government wished to render harmless. Waco was simple - tiny cult, the military knew where they were, they were wiped out physically at some loss of American lives, and there were no international considerations. But Timothy McVeigh made sure that the Branch Dravidians were avenged.
He blasted a Government office block and some 700 people were killed and
injured.

Osama bin Laden is a little more complex - a huge cult, the US Army does not
know exactly where they are, to wipe them out physically will entail
enormous "collateral damage", many military casualties, and will have
enormous implications for present and future international relations.

It requires a huge act of faith to believe that what failed at Waco will succeed in Afghanistan.

Non violent means of neutralising terrorism may not make such compulsive
prime time TV viewing as a shooting war, but they do have the advantage of
laying a foundation of peace and justice rather than simply cranking up the vicious circle of violence.

The September 11 atrocity has produced a unique consensus of governments,
including unlikely allies such as Russia, China, and Iran, against terrorism; the downside is that it will provide cover for action against their Islamic minorities (e.g. in Chechnya). Moreover, Israel and India can quote the American precedent for taking violent action against their opponents. An India vs Pakistan conflict might lead to the fall of the Pakistani regime, to be replaced with a Islamic fundamentalist state who will be armed with Pakistan's nuclear bomb.


The USA must understand that to hold the coalition together, it is necessary for them to join the community of nations in other common goals, e.g. they should sign up to the Kyoto Treaty on Climate Change and show that recognise the terror of starvation, flooding and extreme weather events for billions of vulnerable people.


Violence is the problem, not the cure. Therefore non-violent action must be used.

3 NONVIOLENT ACTION

3.1. Defensive action

3.1.1 Airline security
Future suicidal terrorism could involve repeated airliner crashes onto targets including Nuclear Power Stations, oil refineries, spraying with chemical and biological agents, and crashing lorries containing hazardous chemicals.

Many security measures will be taken by Government already, but, after the foot and mouth fiasco, we cannot assume that Government will behave rationally.

Airport security could be tightened up by such obvious means as having metal
detectors at the entrance to a room, instead of letting them be free
standing in an open space.

Airline passengers should be informed that it is in their interests to overpower any hijacker immediately a hijack is declared, even if it means putting one or two lives at risk.

3.1.2 Nuclear Security


Greens could fruitfully focus on reducing the risks arising from a suicidal hijack
targeted on a nuclear power station (NPS).

The No Fly area around NPS should be increased to 11miles around all nuclear (and other potentially toxic) sites as a general safety measure.

Serious consideration must be given to installing ground-to-air missiles at nuclear sites.
Pilots' existing transponder procedure for use in a hijack situation should be upgraded from code-entry to a panic button, and when activated shall automatically alert air traffic control of a suspected suicidal take over.

If a hijack takes place, NPS in the vicinity will be among the first to be alerted, so that they can insert the control rods before impact, which will greatly reduce the risk of a meltdown.

NPS should be fully insured by the owning companies, since at present,
they are covered for less than 1% of a Maximum Credible Accident.

3.1.3 Convert to benign forms of energy


As well as the problems with nuclear power quoted above, our dependence on oil is the root cause of the political problems of the Middle East. It is more than likely that the American interest in Afghanistan is related to control of pipelines for the Central Asian oil fields.

An accelerated transfer away from finite fuels to renewable energy will take the heat out of the oil-dependence situation and also remove the danger from nuclear and oil targets.

3.2 Undercover work


Terrorism, by its nature, requires undercover action to monitor it. Although no friend of secret services, the Green Party recognises that in these circumstances it is necessary. We note that evidence provided by the secret services is often not acted upon (c.f. warnings of Argentinean troop movements before the outbreak of the Falklands War), and this evaluation problem must be rectified.

3.3 Financial Measures

Bin Laden has two strengths - his dedication and his money. There are plenty
who have his dedication, but few have his money.

We enthusiastically welcome, support and encourage the current efforts to identify and freeze his accounts, not least because it will set a precedent for inspection of other kinds of "dirty money" - drug money, arms money, and money that corrupt governments have stolen from the people they rule and sequestered in numbered accounts.

The banking fraternity has long been averse to this kind of inspection, and there is evidence that even now they are dragging their heels. they need encouragement.

This event may be a turning point. It may eventually pave the way for a Tobin Tax.

[Update: In 2004 I asked the Government to review their progress with the financial war on terror. They wrote back to say they were doing fine, no problem, do not worry. Then came the tragic story of Ken Bigley, held by Al-Taqari. As the story unfolded, it was reported that the Government was freezing Al-Taqari's assets. So they either did not know of al-Taqari, or had not bothered to act. Either ignorance or inefficiency.]

3.4 Legal Measures.

The USA should present the grounds for indictment against bin Laden to a competent court of law. It is ironic that the US has refused to sign up to the UN proposal for an International Criminal Court.

The UNSC and UN itself must be brought into the loop.

Is there a law in the UK against uttering death threats? If not, perhaps there should be. (Among others, they would help in cases of battered wives). If there is, it should be used against people who support the various fatwas that have been issued.

The September 11 crisis gives us an opportunity to press for the rule of law internationally.

3.5 Bring international pressure on Governments that shelter terrorists.

The USA could start by ratifying several UN resolutions relating to control of terrorism which it has hitherto neglected to do.

Extradition treaties need to be reviewed. We must recognise that like many
other measures brought to bear on the current crisis, civil and democratic
liberties may be damaged in this process.
Harbouring known terrorists must be made illegal under international law,
and subject to trial in the International Court of Justice.
(See International Governance below, para. 7)

3.6 Understand and address the root causes of terrorism

Governments need to understand that terrorism arises from political frustration, the sense of being unheard and powerless. Oppression, authoritarian government, injustice and poverty all contribute. It happens when people come to the conclusion that the talking and the democratic
process does not work for them.

Democracy goes far beyond having elections every few years. The claim that
George Bush was elected by a full and fair democratic process is extremely
dubious. Nor is democracy in pristine condition in the UK, not least because political parties are funded by, and therefore beholden to, large corporations.

It should be noted that the globalisation of trade is widely perceived as a move that takes power away from both people and their elected representatives, and puts it in the hands of unelected big business interests.

Bin Laden and his followers are deeply offended by the presence of US military on the holy soil of Saudi Arabia. The US should quietly remove this provocation.

The whole of US policy in the Middle East has been predicated on the need to secure oil supplies. This leads them to support rulers on the basis of their pro-western orientation rather than their democratic credentials. This carries the penalty of losing them to revolutionaries from time to time (e.g. the Shah of Iran).

Retiring the Third World Debt would go a long way to removing the poverty
that causes general resentment against the West in Less Developed Countries.

3.7 Religious aspects

If a religious terrorist kills, bigots tend to attack all members of that faith community. In response to this, liberals tend to deny that the problem has anything whatever to do with religion. This is not necessarily so. Communal violence needs to identify someone else as different. It is foolish to pretend that religion does not create a very strong and deep rooted communal identity, because that pretence allows religious leaders to stand aside from their responsibilities.

In the present climate, it would be helpful if religious leaders, particularly the three monotheistic "religions of the Book" were to get together and decide whether the words "God", "Allah" and "Yahweh" refer to the same entity or to different entities.

The likelihood is that mainstream theologians will agree that it is the same entity, and from that, some behavioural modification of believers may flow Of course, some fundamentalists will hold out for the notion that people of other religions are devil-worshippers. They behave in this way in any case. At least we would all know where we stood, philosophically.

Regrettably, preliminary enquiries have found some sympathy, but no uptake for this proposal in the Christian community nor in the Three Faiths Forum.

3.8 Introduce an Index of Governance

This is an early version: see update

Oppression is one of the root causes of terrorism, and bad governments
initiate wars.
Neo-liberal trade policies mean that the default position is that the world
is happy to sell anything, including arms and torture instruments, to
anyone, including tyrants.
Traders can turn a blind eye to the immorality of the trading partner, until
he threatens Western interests in some way. The tyrant is then denounced: he
is the new Hitler, and must be stopped. Full on sanctions are applied.
Later, the bombing starts. His people are killed as collateral damage, his
country is reduced to rubble, the development process is set back by
decades, new resentment arises, and the cycle of violence is perpetuated.

The problem lies in the way governments are accepted by the international
community. Essentially, government is de facto and not de jure. Anyone who
controls the army and the police is the Government. For our Western leaders,
the question is not, "Is this a decent government dedicated to justice and
peace?", but, "Will he align with us or with some other bloc? Will he trade
with us?"

This default position goes back centuries to the mediaeval religious wars when the Pope could order kings to war against a so-called heretic. Finally tiring of this war motivation, statesmen evolved the doctrine of national sovereignty, to resist the overarching pressure from the Vatican.
This reduced religious wars, but the corollary was that the sovereign could do as he pleased within his own state boundaries.

It is time to look again at this centuries old doctrine of sovereignty, in the light of new ideas of human rights, ecological interconnectedness, and global communications.
We have to create a new order that avoids the extremes of absolute national
sovereignty, and the impractical notion of World Government.

Could the way ahead be through the doctrine of Legitimate Governance and
graduated rights for Governments?

Governance means the way government is carried out. The proposal is that the
condition of any nation could be measured by a set of indices, summated in a
single score, and that the diplomatic and trade standing and privileges of
each government should vary according to their score.
The schema below is an outline and does not pretend to be complete and
exhaustive:

Under the auspices of the UN, the Index of Governance would be measured by
such criteria as:
1 Non-harbouring of groups who are prepared to use violence against non-combatants
2 Free and fair elections
3 Possession of weapons of mass destruction
4 Free speech
5 Toleration of non-violent political opposition
6 No use of torture
7 No imprisonment without trial
8 Fair treatment of minorities
8 Military/Social budget ratio (social welfare, education, health)
9 The Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare
10 Convergent economy (i.e. the ratio of incomes of the highest
and lowest decile of the population are growing closer together)
12 The degree of corruption in the country.
13 The numbers of refugees leaving the country.

An index of the above criteria would be applied to all countries.
Diplomatic and economic rights and privileges will be accorded to each
country in proportion to their score on the Index of Governance.
If the index of a country falls, the privileges are reduced. If the index
rises, the privileges increase.
According to an agreed protocol, a failing country will incur the following
suggested penalties on a graduated basis:

1 Loss of specified voting rights in UN.
2 Assistance given to democratic opposition groups who support the
principles of good governance.
3 Ring fence - tighten border controls, preparing for sanctions
4 Graduated economic sanctions
4.1 Financial transfer restrictions
4.2 No trade in lethal goods
4.3 No trade in dual purpose technology
4.4 No trade in chemical weapon precursors
4.5 No trade in biotechnology
4.6 No trade in nuclear technology
4.7 No trade in wines and spirits
4.8 No trade in tobacco
4.9 No trade in cars
4.10 No trade in oil & oil products
4.11 No trade in luxury items

5 Finally, opposition groups who support the principles of good governance
will be entrusted and empowered with responsibility for imports, and fair
distribution of, necessities like food and medicines.

The effect will be that everyone knows where they stand. If a Government
chooses to behave badly, they know that there will be a price to pay for
that behaviour.



 
© 2001 R. Lawson This page was last updated on January 19, 2002